Honored by the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA), Waldren was one of 15 people inducted during the ceremony at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
The National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees are nominated by their home states, National 4-H Council; the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA); or 4-H National Headquarters/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) based upon their exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.
Honorees were presented with a National 4-H Hall of Fame medallion, plaque and memory book during the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the Centennial Project of the NAE4-HA in partnership with National 4-H Council and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA.
“We are proud to recognize the 2018 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision and leadership they have shown toward young people during their many years of service to 4-H,” says Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Committee Chair.
Vernon Waldren, a Kansas 4-H alumnus, devoted 37-years developing, teaching and facilitating youth and adult volunteers to become leaders. Starting his Extension career in Sarpy County with a split appointment of agriculture and 4-H, Vernon moved to Douglas County with a split appointment and finished his career as the unit leader of the combined Douglas/Sarpy Counties. As a co-coordinator of Nebraska’s largest 4-H program, Douglas/Sarpy 4-H reached 30,000 youth annually through its varied delivery methods under Vernon’s supervision from 1976 through 2013.
Vernon’s areas of focus included leadership, Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM), and citizenship education. His philosophy concerning youth was that young people are resources for 4-H and not just for teaching. Vernon’s goal was to include youth in leadership roles, and he did so by having youth serve on planning committees and Extension governing boards, mentoring more than 500 youth on these boards. He also gave leadership to the Aksarben 4-H Livestock Show, the “largest 4-H youth livestock show in the world”, school outreach program, reaching over 2,000 4th grade youth annually.
From 1981 until 1999, Vernon directed the local unit’s Citizenship Washington Focus. This program was set-up on a three-year rotation that focused the youth learning on the differing levels of government – county, state and federal. It was during the third year, the youth traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the Citizenship Washington Focus program conducted by National 4-H Council. Participating in the three-year preparation program, the youth demonstrated knowledge of writing and presenting ideas for policy changes. Throughout these 16 years, 600 youth reported they understood how government and nonprofits operated; plus their individual civic involvement increased throughout the community.
In 1977, Vernon began his long-term commitment with the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) attending his first conference in Columbus, Ohio, and has participated in 35 conferences, acquiring and contributing valuable leadership to NAE4-HA and its members. An early adopter of technology, Vernon assisted with the first NAE4-HA web page reaching the 3,500 members and co-created a VHS video to provide a consistent message for members attending the four regional Joint Council of Extension Professionals meetings. As Chair of Programs Committee, Vernon successfully introduced program task force teams to the current system.
As a member of NAE4-HA’s executive team, Vernon served as the NAE4-HA Treasurer in 1994 and was responsible for $250,000 in assets. Elected president-elect in 1999, Vernon served on a 12-member board to re-evaluate the Board’s structure. Vernon’s presidency launched the new Board structure; however, not without a challenge. Vernon stood firm to the ten-year restructuring plan and won over the membership. The outcome has been renewed professional development opportunities, expanded professional advocacy and increased membership of nearly 1,000 Extension Professionals.
Vernon’s tenure strengthened partnerships with National 4-H Council and 4-H Headquarters. He was a catalyst for National 4-H Council to extend NAE4-HA the 501(c) 3 foundation to further the NAE4-HA’s opportunities for financial gifts. Meanwhile, he served on USDA 4-H Headquarter’s 4-H Name and Emblem Working Group to maintain integrity of the 4-H Clover for millions across the nation. Plus, gave leadership as JCEP Liaison for the Galaxy Conference that brought together Extension Professionals from differing associations in 2003.
In 2011, Vernon served as a tri-chair for the NAE4-HA Conference in Omaha. Retirement has not found Vernon resting as he is serving as the executive director for the Douglas/Sarpy Friends of Extension & 4-H Foundation, he created in 2003, where current assets exceed $375,000. He co-developed Board Boot Camp/Board Masters curriculum, teaching “Boardsmanhip” to non-profit groups in Nebraska including USDA Rural Development Committees and NACEB Officials. Vernon contributes expertise to other groups but his heart belongs to 4-H, an active NAE4-HA retiree, Vernon finds value in mentoring the next generation of professionals while encourages all professionals to continue making the best better!
A NAE4-HA colleague stated, “Vernon was and is a tremendous leader, whose utmost integrity and passion for the 4-H youth profession, unequivocally sets the bar at the highest level for NAE4HA."